We all do it.

We get inspired by a good story. We’re moved by a picture or video that resonates in our hearts and we say to ourselves, we’re going to make a change.

We decide we’re going to take more risks and stop letting our anxiety control us.

We’re motivated!

Then, seconds later, we’re reneging on that promise and falling right back into our normal routine.

Why is motivation so hard to maintain?

This is a question I often ask myself.  As someone who starts and quits things way more often than I care to admit, I find myself blaming my loss of motivation as the reason I fail.

But over the recent thanksgiving holiday, I saw motivation in a new light.

Smoked Turkey Discarded Anxiety

The weekend after thanksgiving, my wife and I continued our tradition of cooking our own small thanksgiving meal, where we will try out new recipes that we wouldn’t want to risk at the big event.

This year, we tried brining a small turkey and smoking it with bourbon soaked cherry wood chips. It was something we saw on the Food Network.

Because we didn’t have a smoker, we asked my father-in-law if he would smoke it for us.

When it came time to cook the turkey, he opened up the smoker and placed charcoal in the base. He then struck a match, held it for a second, then lit one of the coals.

That’s when I realized the truth about motivation.  It’s just is like striking a match.

When a match is first struck, it burns big and bright. If you listen closely, you can hear the fire roaring.

But, seconds later, the fire relaxes into a small, subtle, barely audible flame.

Sure, it’s still burning, but not at the speed and force that it once was.

Like that match, when we get motivated we often make a big deal out of it. We’re burning as bright as we possibly can because we’re excited to make those new changes.

But after a short while, that fire begins to dwindle and if we allow it, it will burn out.

So, how do we keep the fire burning?

After my father-in-law struck his match, he lit one of the coals.

Slowly, the fire from that one coal connected with another and then another. Within a few minutes, all the coals were burning. The coals had created…

Momentum

One of the most proven ways to fight anxiety is by taking very small steps on a regular basis.

While we often wish we could flip a switch and immediately be rid of our fears, that wouldn’t be realistic and more importantly, it would be very dangerous.

That would be akin to lighting a barbecue with a blowtorch. You would successfully light everything on fire at once, but that fire would be difficult to control and, more likely, burn everything around it.

The safest and most effective way to change your life is to take small steps every day and build momentum by adding one step at a time.

Now We’re Cooking

Once the fire was at the right temperature, my father-in-law put the wood chips and the turkey into the smoker.

Smoking food takes a loooong time.

Our small turkey required 4-5 hours to cook all the way through.

When you’re hungry, you may begin to think about increasing the temperature of your fire to make things go faster.

Isn’t that how we do things in life? We want results now and not just now, but right now!

So we look for ways to turn up the temperature and get things done faster.

But we end up missing the important growth stages when we start skipping steps or trying to shortcut our time.

The keys to a good smoked turkey are the same keys to making lasting change in your life. Patience and discipline.

Patience

Patience is a willingness to endure while things are cooking.

Whether you’re smoking a turkey or learning how to manage your anxiety, it takes time. It’s important that you allow yourself that time so that every piece of who you are gets worked on.

You wouldn’t want to bite into a piece of food that looked done on the outside but was still raw on the inside. So don’t treat yourself like that either. Allow the necessary time to pass to make sure things are done.

You may find yourself constantly checking to see if you’re ready and that’s OK. Just don’t rush the process. You’ll know you’re ready when your reactions to circumstances are different.

This is not simply because you decided to respond differently one time. But because the work you’ve been doing has given you a new response. You won’t behave the way you used to and you’ll notice it.

Discipline

This is the second and most important key to making lasting change.

While motivation may get you started and creating momentum is the plan, it’s discipline that drives the action.

It is interwoven into every aspect of making lasting change.

It takes discipline to create momentum. It’s a dedication to the process. It’s what causes you to show up whether you feel like it or not.

It takes discipline to have patience. Without it, we’d be looking for every possible shortcut or trick available so we don’t have to wait for the results we want.

Discipline makes the difference.

But, if you can endure the process, the results are often wonderfully delicious.

Motivation Needs Help

I think we’ve placed motivation on a pedestal as something we need to have in order to be successful. But, you can’t rely on motivation alone.

Yes, motivation can help you to get started on a specific task or goal, but if you’ve worked on any long-term goals like smoking a turkey, weight loss, or lasting life changes, motivation only takes you so far.

But coupled with momentum, patience, and discipline you can create lasting change and a really good smoked turkey.


Next Action Steps

Take a few minutes and review your goals.  Select one goal and in the comments below, write out what small steps you can take to begin building momentum toward completing that goal.  Remember to keep your steps small and manageable.If you haven’t set any recent goals, jot down some things that you’d like to accomplish over the next 90 days.

If you haven’t set any recent goals, jot down some things that you’d like to accomplish over the next 90 days.  Then complete this action step.

For example: One of my goals is to be more consistent with my writing process and publishing on a regular schedule instead of sporadically.  Some small steps I know I can take to create momentum for this goal is to write out a list of topics or potential headlines about the things I want to write.  That way, when I’m ready to write a new post, I already have an idea of what I want to write about.